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Meet The New Boss, Different From The Old Boss

When a founder, owner, or perhaps family member steps aside from running a business, a transference of control needs to take place. How does one identify the best person to take over?

Taking Control

I think it was Billy Connolly who said “Anyone who expresses a desire to be a politician should automatically be banned from being one.” The best leaders are those who inspire greatness in others, who bring about excellent decisions – whilst not necessarily making those decisions themselves.

The superficial rewards of being in charge – such as power and recognition – tends to attract people who seek such accolades. The people that we want to be in charge are those who are good are being in charge – which requires different, and often polar opposite, skills to those possessed by people who want to be in charge.

The best leaders tend to be the people whose skills are so honed that you don’t even notice they are leading.

A Desire To Be In Control

One often hears someone describe themselves as “a bit of a control freak” – and do so in a way which suggests they see it as a positive attribute.

The desire to be in control is, I would suggest, entirely a negative one. Let’s spend a few moments dissecting that sentence to back up my assertion.

Firstly, the word ‘desire’. It suggests a longing; a craving maybe. Having control satiates a need in the individual. It is an inwardly looking word, which describes the person and the effect of their actions on satisfying something within themselves. It does not contribute towards the achieving of an objective or solving of a problem. One person desiring control is about them, not the team. It is an entirely internal factor and not one which will inevitably contribute to a successful outcome.

Then there is the term to be ‘in’ control. This suggests the driving of the car, the piloting of the plane. There is only one person able to be in the ‘hot seat’. Being ‘in control’ is immersive, defining.

In fact, it is tempting to peel back the mask that the word ‘control’ represents, and uncover the real word that lies behind the expression ‘control freak’ – power.

Avoiding The Power Grab

When it seems that a control vacuum may be emerging, those that desire control will seek to fill it. This grab for power is unlikely to produce anything other than disharmony.

Being aware of this likely eventuality is a major part of the planning for succession. New decision making capabilities must be built in order to replace the control function that is leaving the business. Replacing one leader with another leader – especially someone that wants to be the leader – is not going to help build a business to become sustainable in the long term.

Instead, decision making needs to be inclusive. Those who have no desire to be in control should also have their voices heard. Just because someone doesn’t wish to stand up in front of others and share their ideas doesn’t mean that they don’t have good ideas to share.

The process of designing a decision making structure should be inclusive – those who seek control can easily hijack the process, imposing their will. A collaborative decision making structure that truly works needs to evolve from a collaborative process.

Meet The New Boss – Different From The Old Boss

This blog began with the question of how the owner identifies the best person to take over the control that they are leaving behind. If our answer is that decision making is going to be collaborative, then this proves us with the characteristics of the new leader – someone who is going to be excellent at helping others make excellent decisions.

Such characteristics are likely to include humility (it’s not all about their decisions); empathy (understanding the desires of others to contribute in their own way); and emotional intelligence (not only recognise, understand and manage their own emotions, but recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others).

In other words, the characteristics of someone who will not be the first to push themselves forward in the race to be the leader!

Chris’s new online programme to help owners decide if EOT is right for them, and then help the company to prepare for the sale, will be launched on the 19th November. To register your interest, contact him on  

His book on succession planning and EOTs is called The Eternal Business and is available from Amazon

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